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An extraordinary care package in the COVID-19 pandemic

Cottage Grove | Creswell | Dexter | Eugene | Florence | Springfield | July 2, 2020
Qusheng Jin and Qing Lu, members of the Oregon Chinese Coalition, deliver donated N95 masks for frontline workers at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, Ore.
The Oregon Chinese Coalition donated 2,000 N95 masks for frontline workers at PeaceHealth's hospital in Springfield.

The nonprofit Oregon Chinese Coalition is best known for hosting statewide events like the Chinese Festival and the Chinese Youth Conference. But early this year, world events temporarily pushed the group in a completely different direction.

As coalition members heard from their friends and relatives in China about a new coronavirus sweeping through Wuhan, sickening and killing thousands, they began raising funds to send protective masks to hospitals in Wuhan.

Compelled to help in Oregon

Weeks passed and when the first confirmed cases of novel coronavirus emerged in the United States, the coalition launched a similar effort to provide masks for healthcare and other essential workers in Oregon.

From talking to our friends and relatives in China, “we know how dangerous COVID-19 is,” said coalition member Qusheng Jin, an associate professor of geology at the University of Oregon. “So we felt we had to do something here in Oregon.”

The group’s foresight, hard work and persistence culminated in late April with the delivery of 12,390 N95 masks to five Oregon hospitals, including 2,000 masks for PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield.

Ling Wang and Qusheng Jin, members of the Oregon Chinese Coalition, deliver donated N95 masks to PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBendMasks arrive at just the right time  

“This donation and other donations from our communities came at a crucial time for PeaceHealth Oregon,” said Julie Christensen, PeaceHealth Oregon’s director of supply chain. “We were having a hard time securing personal protective equipment (PPE) through our usual supply channels, yet the demand for N95s by our frontline nurses and doctors was rapidly increasing as more patients with COVID-19 symptoms sought our care. We’re deeply grateful for the coalition’s donation and the generous support of our communities.”

The coalition started out by simply asking member families to donate any surgical or N95 masks that they didn’t need for their personal use. Then through the connections of the coalition’s board chair, Hongcheng Zhao, who had retired after a long career in the healthcare industry, the group learned about a stockpile of more than 12,000 N95 masks in Shanghai. A Chinese company had ordered them as the pandemic there was on the downturn, so the masks had been stored as surplus.

The coalition then faced the challenges of quickly raising enough money to buy the masks and having them shipped all the way from China to Oregon in the middle of a global pandemic.

Many helped along the way

The Chinese company aided the coalition by selling the masks for $33,000—the same price it had paid. It also handled the shipping logistics in China. The coalition crowd-sourced the money in a few days. Then the group enlisted the help of Oregon Congresswoman Suzanne Bonameci’s office, which smoothed the way for the shipment to clear borders and customs. Finally, FedEx headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., closely tracked the package as it made its way across the country to Oregon.

In all, it took nearly a month for the masks to finally reach Oregon, where coalition members were thrilled to personally drop them off at hospitals in Portland, Salem, Springfield and Ashland.

The end of an incredible journey

Qusheng Jin, his wife Qing Lu, and other coalition members in the Eugene-Springfield area, made the special delivery to RiverBend Annex, in Springfield, where the masks were inventoried and stored for use at Sacred Heart at RiverBend.

Qusheng Jin, a member of the Oregon Chinese Coalition, drops off donated N95 masks for frontline workers at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in the COVID-19 pandemicAs Jin took one of the large packages out of his pickup, he pointed to the Chinese postal markings, evidence of its long and remarkable journey to Oregon.

At any stop along the way, the shipment could have been intercepted by the Chinese government, U.S. Customs, or simply lost in transit.

"Occasionally, we felt like we might have to give up," Jin recalled. "But we all kept trying, and we are so grateful for the many people who have wanted to help."

Top photo: Qusheng Jin and Qing Lu drop off donated N95 masks with Cory Vansteenwyk at RiverBend Annex in Springfield.

Second photo: Qusheng Jin and Ling Wang, members of the Oregon Chinese Coalition, helped raise funds for the coalition to buy and donate 2,000 N95 masks to PeaceHealth.

Third photo: Qusheng Jin holds up a package with Chinese postal markings. 

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